WVFC contributing editor Rachel McGregor Rawlings grew up in Philadelphia, where she has returned after years in California and New York, calling herself “a missionary among the Mets-loving heathens.” Like not a few other English majors, she adds, she now divides her time “between freelance writing and delivering pizza.”

While in New York, Rawlings studied poetry with Marilyn Hacker, Barry Wallenstein, and Elaine Equi, as Isaacs Scholar at the City College of New York — where she also earned the David Markowitz Poetry Award, the Sidney Jacoboff Fellowship, the Goodman Fund Poetry Award, and the James Emanuel Poetry Prize. Her journalism has appeared in Woman Poker Player and Online Access, and her poetry can be seen in Poetry and Performance, Global City Review and The Ghazal Page. Her occasional blog, “All in Deshou,” mixes poetry, politics and poker.

The poems below are from Rawlings’ chapbook-in-progress, Kawazu Tondaru: and when the frog leapt in. The final poem, “clack! and now jam,” a winner of the James Emanuel Poetry Prize, is a tribute to the late Jackson Mac Low, who was born 87 years ago this week.

These are really wonderful, energetic poems with a distinctive and confident voice.  — Laura Sillerman

Contextuality

Just whisper “last out”
to watch a ballplayer smirk,
fireman’s kids blanch

Pleasures
(after Sei Shonagon)

coffee, without sugar and with much sugar

music and a pouncing cat

apricot pastries

noodle vendors

newspapers found on the train

newspapers left behind for other readers

long kisses

sandalwood beads

short hair, long hair, and baldness

long conversations

red clay

local stone

old trees

the smell of leather

returning home to a lover

tricycles

cherry wood in a fireplace

cherry wood growing in the earth

cilantro and rice

desire, and patience

 

Below Canal

Ravens on the beams are preening, stuck in
Their unflappable midday rituals:
Midnight’s silence on the station fence.
Apparitions are no source of victuals;

Unblinking birds scan uptown passengers
Unbothered by some eighty talons gripping
Wet black rails in contemplative silence.
Ice and slush have slicked the stairs and dripping

Coats are shaken by the day’s habituals
Avoiding puddles. Odin’s messengers
Will relay none of this. What thought for gods
Have metal birds beneath Americas?

What Hugin’s iron sons don’t really see,
would Munin’s clutch commit to memory?

Clack, so now jam!
(For Jackson and Mordecai Mac Low)

a jackdaw song
a gas, a gas in collision with dust and time
the trombone part playing particle and wave
breve breve
certainly they whirr where hims are sung
in minced frequencies
yellow light bounced back to the street
purple light filters through the balcony, the milk crate
to reach toward the stage, joining other light entertainments
controlling the siren of the theramin, not the air raid
particles of Krakatoa
to Utica by waves
to the self-defined virgin
frequency
movement of the wave through time
two hours
nostalgia postscript wavers
there are many ways to use strayers
a children’s tune bathed in blood
washed clean by further juxtaposition
gift of cloudrider sub fossa
behold, the squicker putter-downer
more reels unspooled
mortal coils laid upon rice
what is the alternative to vegetable soybeans?
correspondence with iroha erased
coca? mj? no; walks
–o, c’mon slack jaw!
–clack! So now jam,
slipping the tongue to
massmusik fur jungen,
ashcanned and kettledrummed off.
ectoplasmic slack now, o majick
movement of the wave through time,
on pace
pa che pa che
yo soy poisson rouge
in maple leaves
sharing the raincloth
two hours
with the impact of jellied gasoline
and dice
breve

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